The dawning realisation. If you’ve ever picked a film to watch mostly at random, you may be familiar with this feeling, which comes about 10 minutes in. That knockabout comedy that the cover promised you? It’s actually a pretty serious relationship drama. That big budget-looking action movie? Actually just a bunch of guys running about in the woods. And, more pertinent to our current review, that cool looking alien on Earth movie? Well, if I had to guess I’d say it was secretly funded by Scientology, or some other cult (more on that later); put simply, it’s the least subtle Jesus allegory of all time.
An old space king with a beard, surrounded by a beatific glow, is chatting to his son, a Hercules-in-the-old-movies-looking fellow who has no name until he’s christened “Buddy” on Earth (played by Brett Baxter Clark, who’s done time on soaps and plenty of cheesy movies). The king informs Buddy that his brother has died on Earth, and that it’s a strange and dangerous planet. Hey, I wonder if his brother had the initials JC? It appears his brother’s plan to vanquish GREAT EVIL failed, so Buddy takes it upon himself to go to Earth and finish off what was started.
Now, if you or I were god-like beings, we’d probably prepare a little before visiting an alien planet. Find out about their culture, how to speak to the locals, that sort of thing. But Buddy is not like you or I, so after being told by Dad that they speak the same language as the people of Earth, he’s off, befriending the first hobo he meets (who gives him clothes) and then happening upon a drug deal being completed by Mr One. Buddy asks “are you Great Evil?”, Mr One replies “Yes, I’m the greatest” and Buddy has an antagonist!
I can’t go any further without mentioning the rather odd view of race on display. Apart from one kid (who steals a wallet from a dead man so he can buy his dog some food), every single black guy we see in this movie is a drug-dealing murderer. And the women are all prostitutes – this includes all the white women, too, with one exception. The Hispanic guys are all gang-banging rapist psychos, but at least a few of them are won over by the end. Mr One, though, really goes out of his way to be evil, talking about his “bitches” and how if any other heroin dealer tries to muscle in on his turf, he’s going to kill them. He also secretly records all the most important white people in town having sex with his “bitches” so he can blackmail them – he takes such delight in this activity that one suspects it’s also a fetish. Just in case you weren’t 100% convinced these are bad people, a vice cop comes over (seemingly unable to comprehend that turning up to a random location to have sex with a prostitute might be a setup) and Mr One arranges it so his “companion” is a woman he just picked up in his club that night, not a working girl. When she says quite reasonably that she’s not interested in having sex with some random guy, he beats the crap out of her – then the vice cop threatens her with a gun unless she disrobes and has sex with him immediately.
The Hispanic gentlemen, on the other hand, drive round the deserted city streets at night on the off chance an unaccompanied white woman will be there, it seems, but they’re lucky immediately, running across Lora (Pamela Saunders), an angelic woman who runs a charity in the inner cities devoted to teaching underprivileged youth to read. As they’re about to rape her, Buddy steps in (him being near stuff that’s about to happen is a theme), and kicks their asses – thanks to him wandering past a dojo a few hours previously and instantly learning all the moves. The thing is, though, Buddy doesn’t have any particular physical powers, and even says that using violence makes him weaker – but he does have powers, oh wow does he have powers, we just don’t see them yet.
I could go on for pages and pages about this wonderfully odd movie, and as it’s available for free on Youtube I hope you watch it so I don’t spoil too much. There’s so much lunacy to cover! Anyway, Lora has a rich boyfriend, and it’s with him that we witness Buddy’s amazing powers – he’s able to see inside his soul, and tells Lora he’s not interested in her, or their charity, he just wants to possess her. She, after like a second of doubt, believes him, and Buddy then sits her down, tells her to close her eyes and picture the life she most wants – it’s telling her rich boyfriend to sod off and giving back his money. Cool! Of course, then one of the Hispanic rapists turns up with a pistol to shoot Buddy and…finish the job off with Lora? Anyway, Buddy subdues him and then just gets him to talk about why he thinks he’s dumb, this opens up a whole can of worms about his childhood, and within a minute he’s sat reading a book, completely cured of his violent tendencies. That he almost raped Lora is never mentioned again!
So this is how a large portion of the movie goes. Mr One does exceptionally evil things and Buddy sort of hypnotises people into instantly changing their personalities – memorably at one point, an entire huge Hispanic gang by just saying “NOOOOOOOO MOOOOOOORE” and punching a street sign. The reading charity starts going great, and Buddy and Lora grow much closer. Oh, and he rescues the hobo too, who’s a huge alcoholic (but used to be a mechanic, which is handy).
So let’s chat about why I think this movie is cult propaganda. Firstly, the way the ultimate goal is to get kids to read. This stinks of something like Scientology, who run numerous educational front organisations. At one point, Buddy insists on all the kids getting a dictionary, because they’re learning words they don’t understand…and of course this is a huge success. Scientology believes (apparently) in very granular learning, breaking sentences down into their component atoms, which educational experts say is an absolutely dreadful way of learning, but works for Scientology’s brainwashing. Well, I’m sure they wouldn’t think it was brainwashing, but you get the drift. While dictionaries are fine tools, they’re not the be-all and end-all of education. There’s also a symbol on the front of the “Reading Centre” and the sweet tracksuit Buddy wears that I didn’t recognise, that feels weirdly specific for a relatively low-budget movie like this.
Secondly, is how Buddy is able to build a car, a beautiful shiny silver roadster, out of random junk he buys from a scrap-yard. As well as this being pretty much impossible, it also feels like the sort of thing a cult would say – “hey, you don’t need to spend money on expensive things! Build your own!” From my vague recollections of L Ron Hubbard’s “Mission Earth” series (I read all 10 books, long before I knew who he was), I feel like there’s something of that sort in there. They spend a lot of time on it for it to be an irrelevance.
Thirdly, is the way it doesn’t feel particularly Christian (certainly not any mainstream flavour). Buddy gets stabbed protecting Lora from the Hispanics, and while he’s leaving hospital he sees a girl in a coma, surrounded by her family and a Priest. He says a few words to her and she wakes up, obviously, and the Priest looks pretty upset he didn’t get to perform the last rites (or whatever the heck it is, I don’t know tons about religion). I guess it’s like how Jesus had no truck with the guys who were misusing religion back in ol’ Palestine? The thing is, there’s no element of collective worship, or banding together really at all, which you’d normally associate with a Christian propaganda movie.
A quick word about graffiti. After shouting at the Hispanics, he turns them all into good guys instantly, and one of the things they do is go round and paint over all their old graffiti and replace it with something a little more positive. This is maybe my favourite bit of the movie – on one wall, we get “Do Not Murder” (I love this so much) and on the other? “Be Temperate”. Temperate! When was the last time that word was used? And the genuinely amazing thing, Mr One notices business for drugs and hookers is down because people are heeding the warning on the graffiti!
It’s gloriously bizarre, with a weirdly mannered performance from Clark, who was clearly told to aim for a sort of kid’s story version of Jesus. In fact, it feels like a kids’ movie, with its simplistic morals, but at the last minute someone decided to put drugs, rape, nudity and murder in it. Then there’s how the denouement doesn’t involve Buddy at all, him having already “died”. I haven’t got a bloody clue, mate!
It appears director Ed Hunt is a true UFO believer, having made “UFOs Are Real!” (bit of a giveaway) in 1979 and the glorious sounding “Starship Invasions” in 1977; he also directed an episode of a Biblical TV series, so who knows? It’s probably just catastrophically misguided Christian propaganda from someone who didn’t like churches and wanted to reform the inner cities, without the slightest idea of how to do it. Its heart is in the right place, but its brain is on another planet.
Rating: thumbs up